Day four of our trip was initially planned as a six hundred kilometre drive from Bukhara to Tashkent with two brief park stops along the way. The draft had us arriving at our hotel around 8:00pm, which would have been eminently sensible. It goes without saying that we could have kept this plan in its original form, but circumstances got the better of us in early June when a mother lode of new information on Uzbekistan was published in RCDB.
Many of the new finds were powered coasters, but there were a few interesting rides in the mix, not least a knock-off Pinfari ZL42 in Qarshi. We came up with a possible way to get there, but our tour company vetoed the change as unrealistic due to poor quality roads. With that off the table we added two additional parks to our original routing, metamorphosing our relaxed day into a seventeen hour marathon. We did manage to ride everything on our list, but I'd be lying by omission if I didn't say that the day was packed too tightly for comfort; were I planning the same trip again I'd probably put an overnight hotel beside Zomin Istiroxat Bog'i to avoid arriving into Tashkent at 1:00am.
11th July 2018
Ali-Shir Nava'i (also Alisher Navoi) was a fifteenth century Uzbek philosopher and poet widely considered to be the founder of early Turkic literature. Different transliterations of his name appear on public places and institutions all over central Asia, not least three separate amusement parks in Uzbekistan.
Navoiy Park is the collective name for two separate parks: the sixteen acre Yujniy Park (Southern Park) and the seventy acre Severniy Park (Northern Park). The full history of the place is unclear, though the oldest imagery in Google Earth (2002 as of this writing) shows a small number of Soviet-era amusement rides that almost certainly dated from the sixties and seventies. The overheads show no real changes until late 2014, when virtually all of the existing equipment vanished in favour of a job lot of new hardware from China.
It was around 10:00am (and a balmy 39°C) when we arrived at the park to find virtually all attractions fully operational. The only significant exception was the powered coaster. It looked to us like someone had completed morning start-up procedures, as protective covers had been removed, but there was no sign of an operator and the control booth was locked. Our guide made some enquiries, and after quite a bit of back and forth learned that the ride owner would be coming to work in the late afternoon. There was no way we could wait until then with several hundred kilometres of driving ahead of us, and thus we resigned ourselves to our second miss in as many days.
We decided to take a circuitous route back to our bus in order to photograph the few rides that we hadn't already seen. During our walk our guide struck up a conversation with an operator at one of the two pirate ships, and against all expectation he apparently knew someone who had the right key. Ten minutes later we were boarding the steps to Dragon in some disbelief at our good fortune. The train rocked sideways as we climbed into it, and I'm not at all sure that it achieved its advertised top speed of nine miles per hour, but we got a few laps in before the power was switched off. There were no station brakes, and thus the train was stopped manually using the combined efforts of two members of staff.
Yoshlik Istirohat Bog'i
11th July 2018
The German language is well-known for interesting words, not least backpfeifengesicht (a face in need of a fist), schadenfreude (happiness at the misfortune of others), and sitzpinkler (someone who sits down to pee). During our drive we learned another one; sesselpupser broadly translates to couch potato, but the literal translation is much more fun; someone who farts in their armchair. It's worth noting that Germans have two different words for "fart" depending on the power level. "Pupsen" covers low-intensity emissions; "Furzen" is for high-intensity detonations. The more you know.
Yoshilik Istirohat Bog'i occupies an area of around twelve acres in the north-western corner of Samarkand, the second largest city in Uzbekistan. Almost fifty rides have been crammed into a forested area, along with a concert stage and several restaurants, not least the Disney Café which may or may not have been officially licensed. We were thrilled to discover Loviya Yulagi, a previously unknown Yamasakutalab gravity coaster, though sadly it was out of service today due to technical problems. Had it been open it would have cost us 5000 s'om (~€0.55) to ride, compared to 3000 s'om (~€0.33) for the nominally larger powered coaster.
Drakon looked at first glance like a clone of the ride we'd ridden a few hours earlier at Navoiy Park, though closer inspection revealed a number of differences. Each car had a a number of brightly coloured running lights, and the track had four separate power lines, three to the right of the rails and the other on the left. The pantograph looked like something one might expect to see attached to a dodgem car, as it generated a virtually continuous stream of sparks while the ride was in motion. The operator offered to run the ride at a higher than normal speed for our group of six adults, and though he may well have done this the experience was still largely forgettable. Once again there was no brake, though the operator used the motors in reverse to bring us to a controlled stop.
Istiqlol Bolalar Bog’i
11th July 2018
Istiqlol Bolalar Bog'i can be found on the side of a hill in the city of Jizzakh, a historical place name prone to becoming mildly unfortunate when deliberately mispronounced by immature English speakers. The main entrance has two separate pathways that lead in the same general direction, albeit to different elevations. The vast majority of the attractions can be found on the lower midway, including two roller coasters; the upper midway contains a giant wheel, a swing ride, and not a lot else. Fitness freaks should start at the bottom, as there's a set of almost one hundred steps to climb; all other visitors (especially those who enjoy double entendres) should start at the top and work their way down.
Our only information on the park prior to visiting was what we could glean from satellite overheads, and as such it was a delight to discover a clone of the coaster we'd liked so much at Samonids Recreation Park. The power setting on Happy Hills (#2459) wasn't quite at the level of Amerikanskaya Gorka, but it was a decent enough ride nonetheless. The highlight came right at the end, when the power was cut unexpectedly as the train approached its highest point; the resulting rollback was quite thrilling given the relative paucity of banking on most of the turns.
Our third powered dragon of the day was outwardly similar to the previous two, yet once again the design had a few differences, suggesting a different manufacturer. Dragon Train had two power rails on the right hand side of the track, and instead of a combined pantograph the train had separate pickups for each rail, both of which were attached to the lead car and easily reachable by anyone with long arms seeking electrocution. Each seat also had a metal grab bar raised perhaps a foot above the car body. The ride had the strongest lateral forces of the day by some margin; I'd advise adults retracing our steps to ride in separate cars.
Zomin Istiroxat Bog'i
11th July 2018
The journey to our fourth stop took a little over an hour, and we zoned out for most of it as energy levels had begun to fade. The only moment of levity came in the early stages of the drive, when we overtook an aging Moskvitch with a full size double bed attached to its roof. The vehicle was still just about within the road markings, but there was absolutely no margin for error, and perhaps unsurprisingly our driver gave it a wide berth. Its owner spotted the minibus full of tourists with cameras out and gave us a friendly wave.
Zomin Istiroxat Bog'i was the best presented of our four parks today by some margin, with neat landscaping and painted fencing around individual attractions. It was dusk as we arrived, and coloured lights had begun to come on all over the park giving it a very pleasant appearance. The locals picked us out as tourists almost immediately, and were evidently keen to practice their English; their hospitality was well beyond the norm, with one group of teenaged girls paying for Megan to join them on the pirate ship.
Drakon was running as we approached, though the word "limping" would probably be more appropriate given the speed of the train. The seats were all occupied by young children, and my immediate thought was that the badly underpowered motor would have precisely zero chance of moving a full load of western adults. Nevertheless the operators were happy to take our money, and thus we took our seats for an excruciatingly slow ascent that featured both an unhappy mechanical grinding noise and a distinct smell of burning. I was waiting for the motor to give up the ghost, but remarkably enough it didn't, and thus we enjoyed two circuits of a double spiral track that between them took an incredible two minutes and eighteen seconds.